It once happened that a gypsy was scolding his young son, "You good-for-nothing fellow! If you don't learn some juggling, thievery and whatever is needed to survive, I will put you in school and make you an educated man. Then, you will suffer from endless want." Unfortunately, that is the kind of education we have delivered to the world. All that education does to human beings is create endless want in them.
Education should have widened our horizon so much that we should have become free from our wants – this is education for me. As you become more evolved, your wants should go. But right now, it is the educated people who are destroying this planet. The illiterate have a very small footprint, they are very ecofriendly. But the moment you go through the Manchester-style of mass-production education we have today, where everyone is put through the same extruder, they become hungry for more and more. Not more in terms of expansion of who they are, but more in terms of accumulations. Nobody knows why they are shopping or what they are shopping for. They are just turning their homes into warehouses, and this is our idea of economy. Such an idea of economy is destruction.
During the economic depression in 2008, I was asked to speak at the World Economic Forum in Davos. A lot of multi-billionaires were carrying long faces because they were worth a few billion less than what they were a few months earlier! So, they asked me to conduct a session called, “Recession and Depression”. I told all of them, "Right now, the way you have built the economic engine if it fails, you will get depressed. If it succeeds, all of us will be damned. So you must choose whether you want to be depressed or you want the world to be damned.”
This is the value system we have set up. But if you look at Indian culture even a couple of decades ago – and even now though it is rapidly disappearing – you will see for example, when you go to a wedding in Tamil Nadu, you will find all kinds of vehicles parked outside. You will find Mercedes and Bentleys, as well as TVS mopeds. If you go inside and look at the ladies, you may be able to make out who is rich and who is poor by the amount of gold around their neck. But if you look at the men, they will all be in the same white bush-shirt, starched and ironed, and white dhoti. You cannot make out who came in the Bentley and who came on the TVS moped. They all look the same. This was the kind of value system in our country where what is valued is how responsible, generous and inclusive you are. Your humanity was valued more than anything.
But today, the first thing they ask you are, "How much are you worth?" Everything is based on that. If you say someone is a big man, it is not because he has a big brain or a big heart. It is because he has a big pocket. When we set values like this, obviously, this is the direction you will go. Modern education is oriented towards exploiting everything. The focus is on what we can get out of every life on this planet. That is not going to lead to human wellbeing. This is not the right kind of education. Our focus should be on what we can do for every life on this planet. This inspiration is completely missing.
We need to relook at what is significant in our life. The virus has brought a certain amount of contemplation of what we are doing. A time like this should be used as a realisation about how we should live our lives, and what we should do differently within and around ourselves. The value of our humanity must become the prime factor.
Education should not be about learning to exploit everything around you, education should be about broadening the child’s horizons. Unless we breed inclusiveness into every child, blossoming of the human being cannot happen. But you cannot create an education system independent of the society in which we exist. Educating a child is the responsibility of the entire society, not just the parents and teachers. As a society, we must be willing to cultivate an eco-system suitable for a child to grow up in the best possible way. Only then will we create an education system for the blossoming of the individual.
(Ranked amongst the fifty most influential people in India, Sadhguru is a yogi, mystic, visionary and bestselling author. He has been conferred the "Padma Vibhushan", India’s highest annual civilian award, by the Government of India in 2017, for exceptional and distinguished service.)